Austrian Photography and Painting from Five Decades

Exhibition: February 15 – March 17, 2018

In the focal center of the exhibition is “direct art”: we show different facets of this which have developed, specifically in Austria, from the 1960s until today. The main point of departure is Actionism, which called for a radical departure from two-dimensional, panel art as symbolic of the “bourgeois art concept,” and declared the human body as an actual artistic material. The artist carried art on her or his skin. Günter Brus painted his body and subjected it to mauling; Rudolf Schwarzkogler bandaged his models; Otto Muehl tied them up; Hermann Nitsch established a complete art form of his own using rituals involving blood and slaughter. The choreography of these actions was always precisely sketched out. Photographers Ludwig Hoffenreich, Walter Kindler, Michael Epp, Marc Adrian, and Franz Hubmann were given strict directions by the artists for documentation.

Rudolf Schwarzkogler – for many, the most consistent of the Viennese Actionists – developed a very personal and conceptually oriented type of performance art, which happened without public interaction. The photo alone served for orientation, which required a very high focus on the artist as person. Konzett Gallery is showing a selection of these vintage prints and editions.

In 2007, Philipp Konzett, together with Archives Muehl, published an exclusive photo series of Material Actions No. 5, No. 15, and No. 19. Before his death, Otto Muehl made a selection of around 700 photo negatives. The extremely small edition of 7 + 2 a. e., as well as the format of ca. 200 x 160 cm make this a museum-worthy series.

In the area of performance, artists include Friederike Pezold, VALIE EXPORT or, currently, Christian Eisenberger and Elke Krystufek. They understand themselves as subject, medium, and object of their own performance. One’s own body becomes the medium and expression of social and sociopolitical messages, whereby not only cultural values are communicated and identities are created, but also, critique is expressed and cultural transformation initiated.

Otto Muehl dominates also in the painting section of the exhibition. The two oil paintings “Ritual Sex (Papyrus 55001)” and “Untitled,” both from 1984, from the “Egyptian Phase”, count among his main works from this period. His passion for this art was awakened by Patsy, a fellow student and young love: “otto, you’ll see, Egyptian art, she said, as she made an ecstatic movement sideways and upwards, and inhaled audibly, will just knock you off your feet, you along with your cezanne. But, but, I said.” Hubert Klocker (ed.) Otto Muehl, Ausgewählte Arbeiten [Selected Works] 1963–1986, Vienna 1986.

In the showroom one will find van Gogh als Ziege [van Gogh as a Goat], another key artwork from the 1980s. Here, Muehl makes reference, with radically expressive brushstrokes, to the technique of van Gogh and once again demonstrates his unconventional working process along with excellent artistic quality.

Also exhibited in the showroom is one of the most significant graphic prints by Hermann Nitsch. The silkscreen print Das Letzte Abendmahl” a.e. [The last supper] was created in 1983, based on an eponymous drawing from 1976–1979, which was executed on a single length of paper. “In connection with the Orgien Mysterien Theater, the composition corresponds to a design of an underground city after the image of the last supper for the action-drama, the destruction and regeneration of the universe.” (Hermann Nitsch)

Christian Rosa is represented in the Gallery for the first time. The artist studied painting in Vienna with Daniel Richter. “Rosa’s casual charm stems from a deep wisdom, which is completely foreign to bureaucracy, which his compositions reflect. On his canvas he magically conjures the style of the old masters, who have long learned the art of avoiding people and social life. Rosa is compared to the late Miró or Basquiat and then he’s accused of being similar. That is typical of Austrians. Art comes from art. Rosa’s casualness, but also deliberateness in paint application and his mindful color compositions, his organization and his knowledge of the “sacred” nothing, makes this artist into a master.” Lukas Pusch, der Antist.

For Franz West, everything was worthy of becoming art. Through interaction, both the artist and recipient participated equally in the process of legitimizing the artwork. Franz West began to produce his legendary adaptives in 1977, using bandaging and plaster for most of them. In the exhibition, we show rare collages from the 1970s and 1980s.

The works of Rudolf Polanszky are similar to a language and make use of a sequence or an arrangement of signs and symbols, however, without taking direct recourse to meanings and without simulating a cause and effect relationship. It remains an open question, what are causes and what are effects here. Reality as a principle is replaced by the performance of reality, including our means and mechanisms of representation and interpretation. (Cem Angeli)

Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth and Andy Warhol represent international positions. Established in Germany in parallel with Actionism, Fluxus was an art form which, through the artist personalities of Joseph Beuys and Dieter Roth, proceeded to influence and find application in American Pop Art, and tested out and reenacted a socially and environmentally critical, as well as process oriented radicalization, with recourse to elements of the readymade.

With Andy Warhol’s “Pop Art icon,” Brillo Box of 1966, concerns the painted imitation of the original, as the component to an installation concept of 400 similar exhibits offered in an affordable price category, which, however, did not occur. Joseph Beuys’s work can be seen in the context of a social and ecology-political attitude. As part of a large-scale performance, the installation symbolizes the hope and possibility of uniting—through art—dualistic concepts of east and west, or mysticism and materialism.

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